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July 27, 2011

John Cook


PETE KOWALSKI: Good afternoon, folks. We'd like to welcome Ohio native John Cook to the Senior Open media center. John, I guess probably best to start with a familiarity question. You probably have quite a few rounds of golf at Inverness under your belt from your time as a junior, or maybe not.
JOHN COOK: No. We moved out of here before my first birthday. It would have played a little long if I was playing any when I was young. My dad was a high school football coach in the area here at Maumee High School. After the '57 season, he moved out to Mansfield and then on to Ohio State. I was the son of a football coach here, so that was the extent of my Toledo. But I was born here in Maumee, so definitely happy to be back in town, and yeah, I played three events here, so yeah, I've got some rounds under my belt.
PETE KOWALSKI: How about assessing your game after the British run, et cetera.
JOHN COOK: It's been not quite as consistent as I'd like it to be. I have won three times and another top 10 at Pebble Beach. I think my worst finish has been like 25th, so it hasn't been bad, but some of those weeks could have been much, much better. Last week I played very well. I didn't really improve my position on the weekend unfortunately, so a little bit disappointed in my finish last week, but 11th is still okay at one of our major championships. So coming into this week definitely feeling on a high note.
I had a nice run there at Montreal and Pebble Beach and played decent at Walton Heath, and then coming to a place that I have some good vibes with, definitely I feel like it's the makings for a good week. So I'm excited to play, that's for sure. I'm really, really excited to play this week.
PETE KOWALSKI: What's the reason for the good vibes?
JOHN COOK: Just being an Ohio native and just a lot of Ohio State people around. I've got some family here and lots and lots of friends, so the support will be out there, which will be great. I've always looked forward to that. Ohio is a fantastic sports state. They treat their athletes like their own family, and I got that out of Columbus and Toledo and Cleveland and everywhere that we've played. I feel like we're still very local, and it's a great feeling to have people pulling for you instead of not pulling for you.

Q. I'm going to kind of try and make a linear connection, another one with Inverness, and that is that Byron Nelson was a head professional here, and part of the heritage of your development in your game through Ken Venturi and of course Byron and Ben Hogan, could you speak to that a little bit?
JOHN COOK: Yeah, I knew that Byron was the head professional here back in the '30s, I believe, '30s and '40s. Obviously Kenny's connection with Byron is legendary, and just being around Ken so much growing up and then through most of my professional regular Tour career, got to spend a lot of time with Byron. Just a great man that had nothing but praise for everything that he did. I feel very connected to that, as well, like you said.
I played here in the '79 Open as an amateur, I got paired with Andy North and Jack Nicklaus, so that was a great thrill, and Byron had come out and watched me hit some balls on the practice tee was just was -- he didn't have to do that, but that's just the kind of person that he was.
There's a lot of, like you said, linear connection here between our family and the area and Inverness, as well.

Q. Obviously with Couples sidelined and off his game this year, when he was playing, he and Tom Lehman had really stepped up. How do you view the rest of the season in terms of supremacy out here?
JOHN COOK: This is kind of the meat of our season with the majors all kind of right in a row. Last week, this week, the PGA was just a couple weeks ago, The Tradition was a few weeks before that, and in another two weeks is our Senior Players. So this really is the meat of our season. I just thought that whoever played these two months really well would probably end up being your -- have really a leg up on the Schwab Cup.
So far I haven't really taken advantage of it yet. That's been a little bit disappointing, but we've got a couple more events on some good golf courses, so I'm excited about that. With Bernhard out for an extended period of time and Fred not playing, you've got to take advantage of those opportunities, and I've done it to a point, but these are certainly the events that you have to take advantage of those opportunities, our major championships, just the importance of the events and where they are and the history of them. Our Tour is about winning, obviously, and that's the main goal for these events and for the rest of the year.
I need to play well this week and then at Westchester in a couple weeks, and then we'll be back on track to maybe have a run at Tom towards the end of the year.

Q. Back to Ohio State, T6 here in the '93 PGA, but the routing is different than what you had then.
JOHN COOK: I'm all confused, I really am.

Q. I was going to ask you your thoughts on the routing.
JOHN COOK: Wow, I had no idea until I actually got on the golf course, and I went from No. 1 to 2, then I started to walk over to normal No. 3, and they said, no, you've got to go this way. And I went, this way? They said, you play the interior, and I went, wow, okay.
I did see Judd Silverman a little while ago and he explained why they did that, which I totally get the concept. I know that they're pitching for a U.S. Open here, and those interior holes go back and forth and it's just really crowded, and I get that, I understand that. I get that now, but I'm still really confused. You can't mess with a 50 year old's mind. You don't have many brain cells left, so we've got to keep all we can.

Q. How if at all does it impact not necessarily how you play the holes because it's the same, but how the order of it may impact down the stretch?
JOHN COOK: It doesn't really impact it much because all those holes are really long and they're hard anyway, and the ones that now we play on the outside are all very long and very hard, as well. It comes down to really just getting used to the flow of the golf course more than anything else because they didn't replace hard holes with easy holes or easy holes with hard holes, they replaced hard holes with hard holes. So there really isn't like a scoring -- more of a scoring opportunity at all. It's very level the way that they did it.

Q. Just for clarification, the '79 Open was your first U.S. Open?
JOHN COOK: It was my second. I played in '77 at Southern Hills.

Q. What would it mean to win this week, being that it's here in Toledo? Is it any extra importance to you being that it's here?
JOHN COOK: Absolutely, yeah. Any time you have an opportunity to play in a major, obviously that's our -- that's what we have. These are our majors, so these are our biggest events. Anywhere they are, they're great events to have on your record. But if you could do it in a place that is -- you feel a strong connection obviously, it's that much more special.
I've never denied the fact that I am an Ohio native, I'm an Ohioan through and through. I'm a huge alumni. I am the sole representative of Ohio State in Orlando, Florida, and Newport Beach, California, Gator Nation and Trojan Nation, I'm the only guy around. So I wear it proudly around town. I can't say that; actually Orlando has got a big contingent so we're okay there. Out west we are not. But it certainly would be a great notch on your belt. I would give it a double notch just because of where it is. Absolutely, there's no question about it that this is a special place and Ohio is very special to the Cook family. We're very, very proud Ohioans.
PETE KOWALSKI: How about the greens out here? They're small, they're difficult. Assess them for us, please.
JOHN COOK: I had forgotten how small the greens were until I got out here yesterday. I played No. 1 and then I remembered what my strategy was for all the weeks that I've played here, and it really hasn't changed. You hit it in the middle of the green, you've got a 15-footer on every hole. So there's really no mysteries out here. You just have to have great distance control this week, and you have to put the ball in the fairway.
The rough isn't unmanageable. There are some spots that aren't very good, but there's some spots where they will let you play from. But being the greens are so small, those areas that you're hitting into become even smaller. It's the utmost importance to have control over your ball flight this week, and that guy that hits most of the fairways but also hits -- the guy that hits the most greens this week will probably be your champion or be very close or have a chance to be your champion.

Q. Do you do extended putting practice because of that?
JOHN COOK: Not really. They're tricky greens, no doubt, but you just have to work on your pace. Like I said, you're not going to have a ton of long putts, but if you miss these greens, you'd better be making some four- and five-footers, and I think that's the big key. If you do miss greens, it's not going to be easy pitching because there's a lot of slope and they're small, so you're going to have a lot of four- and five-footers for par saves, the occasional birdie putt if you do have a chance to get it close.
But really the golf course, some of the holes are so long that you're hitting 3- and 4-irons into a lot of these greens. You know, a quality shot here is probably 20 feet, and that would be very acceptable on a lot of these greens, a lot of these holes.

Q. Could you tell us your thoughts on playing in Great Britain last week and then coming back here and playing in the Open here?
JOHN COOK: I'd rather them not be together, I promise you that, that's for sure. It's probably our two big events, the Senior British and the Senior Open, along with the PGA, those are our core majors. Unfortunately that's the way the schedule is, and that's what they give us. One of these days they'll be separated, hopefully very soon, but that's the hand that we were dealt, so you deal the best you can with it and make sure you get enough rest the first part of the week.
By now I feel pretty good. I felt okay yesterday and I didn't feel very good this morning, but the further I got along in my practice round today, the better I felt, the more energy I got. I'm kind of back on the right schedule.
But it's tough going back-to-back majors on different continents, there's no doubt. Bernhard didn't have much of a problem with it last year, and actually I played okay both weeks last year, as well. It's just kind of the way that the schedule is set up. Hopefully we'll get that figured out and get these two separated because they're awful strong events to be going back-to-back.
PETE KOWALSKI: John, thank you so much.

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